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Reducing loneliness among older people – who is responsible?
Linköping University, Department of Social and Welfare Studies, Division Ageing and Social Change. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2891-646X
Linköping University, Department of Social and Welfare Studies, Division Ageing and Social Change. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-1443-5895
2018 (English)In: Ageing & Society, ISSN 0144-686X, E-ISSN 1469-1779Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

In the Swedish news-press, loneliness among older people is presented as a severe problem that needs to be solved. The issue of who is responsible for reducing loneliness and how this responsibility is designated is, however, rarely discussed. In this study, we have analysed how responsibility is designated and constructed in articles from the Swedish news-press. Focus has been on identifying responsibility in discourses proceeding from the concept of subject positions. This concept has enabled analysis on how responsibility is negotiated and who is positioned as a responsible actor with the ability to perform actions that reduce loneliness. Three dominating discourses were found. In the discourse of responsibility within politics and the welfare state, the responsibility is both self-taken and designated to other institutions held responsible for not initiating sufficient measures to reduce loneliness. In the discourse of responsibility within societal and evolutionary perspectives on loneliness, developments beyond the individual's control are considered to contribute to loneliness. At the same time ‘we’ in ‘society’ are considered capable of reducing loneliness, thereby constructing individuals as responsible actors. Within the discourses of responsibility within senior organisations, both senior organisations and people who participate in activities are constructed as responsible actors. In conclusion, the responsibility for reducing loneliness is, apart from the discourse on senior organisations, designated to those working with older people.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018.
Keywords [en]
loneliness, responsibility, news-press, subject positions, discourses
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-153334DOI: 10.1017/S0144686X18001162Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85055109228OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-153334DiVA, id: diva2:1270417
Available from: 2018-12-13 Created: 2018-12-13 Last updated: 2019-03-22Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Loneliness among older people in the Swedish media: Constructions, discourses and the designation of responsibility
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Loneliness among older people in the Swedish media: Constructions, discourses and the designation of responsibility
2018 (English)Licentiate thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Feelings of belonging or not belonging to other people are commonly seen as an essential and universal part of human existence. How loneliness is talked about and understood is, however, found to differ depending on historical, cultural and societal contexts. Today, there are intense discussions on loneliness among older people in the Swedish news-press. Constructions within mass media and - in this licentiate thesis - news-press are found to have a significant influence on how older people evaluate their own life and how older people are treated by the surrounding society. Research with this focus is, however, scarce despite the large amount of studies on loneliness and despite research on constructions of older people within mass media being a frequently addressed issue for ageing research. The aim of this thesis is to explore how loneliness among older people is constructed and how the responsibility for reducing loneliness is designated within the Swedish news-press.

In Paper 1 the empirical material consisted of 94 news-press articles from the years 2013-2014. The prime finding was that loneliness was not the main focus in the articles from the Swedish news-press. The concept was used more to motivate the need for political change, enhancing the importance of volunteer work and described as a risk factor within research reports. The material analysed in Paper 2 consisted of 40 news-press articles from October 2016. The responsibility for reducing loneliness among older people was found to be designated between welfare state institutions on different levels. Institutions and political parties both defend the planned or performed measures to reduce loneliness, but also admit to not doing enough in this regard. Older people were found to be constructed as recipients of activities for reducing loneliness, and the “we” in “society” were those who should perform activities in order to reduce loneliness among older people.

The main overall finding of the thesis is that loneliness was not the main focus in the articles from Swedish news-press. Instead, loneliness was used as a motive for political change and to enhance the value of volunteer work. Furthermore, loneliness among older people is understood as a problem that needs to be solved. The contexts and logics of the mass media were found to have an influence on how loneliness among older people was constructed, as the issue was mainly addressed in local debate articles with ambitions of achieving change.

Abstract [sv]

Känslor av tillhörighet med andra människor betraktas som en viktig och universell del av människans existens. Ensamhet är särskilt relaterat till åldrande och äldre människor. Hur ensamhet pratas om och förstås varierar dock beroende på historiska, kulturella och samhälleliga kontexter. Idag är diskussionerna om ensamhet bland äldre människor intensiva inom svensk dagspress. Konstruktioner inom massmedia har visat sig ha ett betydande inflytande på hur äldre människor värderar sitt eget liv och hur äldre behandlas av det omgivande samhället. Få studier har fokuserat på konstruktioner av äldres ensamhet i massmedia, trots det stora antalet studier om ensamhet och trots att forskning om konstruktioner av äldre inom massmedia är en ofta behandlad fråga inom äldreforskningen. Syftet med denna licentiatavhandling är att undersöka hur ensamhet bland äldre konstrueras och hur ansvaret för att minska ensamhet bland äldre utpekas inom svensk dagsspressen.

I Studie 1 bestod det empiriska materialet av 94 artiklar från svensk dagspress, från åren 2013-2014. Det främsta resultatet var att ensamhet inte utgjorde huvudfokus i artiklarna från svensk dagspress. Ensamhet användes främst som ett begrepp för att motivera behovet av politisk förändring, betona värdet av volontärarbete och för att i forskningsrapporter beskriva riskfaktorer för äldre personers hälsa.

Materialet som analyserades i Studie 2 var 40 artiklar från svensk dagspress, från oktober 2016. Ansvaret för att minska ensamhet bland äldre utpekades mellan välfärdsstatliga institutioner på olika nivåer. Institutioner och politiska partier försvarade de planerade eller genomförda åtgärderna för att minska ensamhet, men erkände också att de inte gör tillräckligt i frågan. Äldre personer konstruerades som mottagare av aktiviteter för att minska ensamhet, och "vi" i "samhället" var de som borde utföra aktiviteter för att minska ensamhet bland äldre. De främsta resultaten från denna avhandling är att ensamhet inte är huvudfokus i artiklarna från svensk dagspress. Istället användes ensamhet som motiv för politisk förändring och för att betona värdet av volontärarbete. Vidare förstås ensamhet bland äldre människor som ett problem som behöver lösas. Massmediala sammanhang och logiker visade sig ha ett inflytande på hur ensamhet bland äldre konstrueras, eftersom frågan huvudsakligen behandlades i lokala debattartiklar, med ambitioner om att åstadkomma förändring.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköping University Electronic Press, 2018. p. 71
Series
Rapporter från Åldrande och social förändring ; 1
Keywords
loneliness, older people, news-press, social constructionism, responsibility, ensamhet, äldre människor, dagspress, social konstruktionism, ansvar
National Category
Other Health Sciences Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-153333 (URN)10.3384/lic.diva-153333 (DOI)9789176851517 (ISBN)
Presentation
2018-02-15, K2, Kåkenhus, Campus Norrköping, Norrköping, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2018-12-13 Created: 2018-12-13 Last updated: 2018-12-14Bibliographically approved

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